Beloved. Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ parable of the invitation to the great banquet. A certain man made a great banquet and invited many people. When it was time for the banquet, he sent out his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” Of course being a parable, Jesus is trying to explain/ teach something to the people. The point that Jesus is making is that this great banquet is the banquet of salvation that God has, in Jesus, prepared for us sinners here on earth. It is the banquet of the forgiveness of sin, grace, complete righteousness, peace, etc. and this banquet continues on eternally in heaven. Come, because everything is now ready. Those are the most glorious words because that is the message of the Church to the world around us. Everything is now ready because of Jesus—His holy life lived for us, His suffering and death for our sins, His resurrection as Victor over sin, death, devil and hell, His glorious ascension into heaven opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Come, because everything is now ready—our salvation has been fully and completely brought about for us by Jesus. There’s nothing we have to do except come, take and enjoy what the Jesus has prepared for us because He has done it all: Come, because everything is now ready.
This is the message of the Church to the world in which we live; this is the message that we share with those around us. Really, this is the voice of Jesus as through His Church, through you and me, He is inviting people to enjoy the banquet of salvation He has prepared for all people. Of course, as Jesus told this parable, He was telling the Jews Come, because everything is now ready, that is, the Savior foretold by the prophets has come; the salvation He promised is accomplished—come, believe in Me because I am that long awaited Savior from sin. But what happened? One after another refused the invitation: But they all alike began to make excuses. Jesus was rejected; He was not that Savior they were looking for. They did not want a Savior from sin but a worldly, political Savior.
The servant arrived and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house was angry and said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” Jesus and the apostles preached the Good News of the forgiveness of sin to the poor and lowly in Israel. The servant said, “Master, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.” The preaching of the apostles through the Church has gone on for centuries and into all corners of the earth and continues to go on: Then the master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and urge them to come in, so that my house may be filled.” But what has been the experience of the Church down through the ages? What has been your experience as you tell others the Good News about Jesus; Come, because everything is now ready? To be sure, the Lord has blessed the Church with great growth and numbers throughout almost two millennia now; many have heard the invitation and have come—perhaps even some to whom you extended that invitation, Come, because everything is now ready.
But what has been the reaction in the past and is seemingly, at least in our world today, the more common reaction? Rejection! But they all alike began to make excuses. And sometimes not just a “polite rejection” but strong opposition and hatred! Here is Jesus through His Church, through you and me, offering the world/ those around us the greatest possible gift: Come, because everything is now ready; the forgiveness of sin and eternal life are yours in Jesus; in Him heaven is opened to you. But this great invitation is not only declined, rejected and despised but its messengers hated.
That’s what St. John warns us about in today’s epistle: Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. Here is a wakeup call for us; here is the reality that we face. Here St. John stops us in our tracks if we think being a Christian will be an easy thing and that everything will go swimmingly for us as Christians. Here is the reminder that the unbelieving world will hate the Christian. But as much as the unbelieving world will hate the Christian, the Christian does not hate in return but loves and continues to show that love precisely to those hating the Christian, even as we are hated for offering the unbelieving world the most glorious invitation, Come, because everything is now ready, and doing good to all.
Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. Why does the unbelieving world hate the Christian? Short and simple answer: Because it hated Jesus first. Jesus tells us [John 15.18-20]: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But why was Jesus hated? Didn’t He do good to all? Yes. But Jesus says [John 7.7; 3.19-20]: The world… hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil; and …the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. The very fact that we Christians recognize that we are sinners and need a Savior from sin, that we confess our sin and call on God’s mercy, that is a rebuke to the world that not everything is good with it. And that we actually invite others to come to the feast of salvation, to come to Jesus as their Savior from sin, is a slap in the face to the unbelieving world that all is not right with it. The unbelieving world tries very hard to cover its sin, to explain away its sin, to silence the voice of conscience accusing it of sin, of making itself seem right in its own eyes. And then there is the Christian/ the Church and all that hard work is gone because the Christian does not go along with the ways/ thinking of the unbelieving world. The Christian will say that things are right or wrong. By the Christian striving to live a life of holiness—and not even being all that successful, which is why we have sin to confess—that is the constant reminder to the unbelieving world of its sin; it stirs up once again all those thoughts/ feelings of guilt; it is a reminder that even though the notion is often suppressed, there still is a Judge to whom we must give an account of our deeds. So even though—or better put, especially because—we Christians are born of God in Holy Baptism, have the Holy Spirit in us, strive to live a life that is good and righteous: Do not be surprised if the world hates you.
That being the case—then let us not expect any favors from the unbelieving world. Should we expect the world to help us increase our faith in and our devotion to and our love and reverence of the Lord? Hardly! We should expect the opposite—that the unbelieving world will find any way it can to try to undermine our faith and piety. Our Western society, which at one time for the most part embraced Christianity, is turning its back on Christianity and morality will try to–and is seemingly becoming more successful in—getting the Christian moved to the fringe and to be regarded as a kook and by that invalidating the Christian message of Jesus, the Savior from sin. But the fascinating thing, is that Christians haven’t changed—it’s the society around us that has changed. So who is it that is really moving to the fringe—it’s not the Christian but the world!
With this fact that was true in Jesus’ day, true in the days of the Apostles, and which is true in our day—Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you—how are we to endure? We continue to love; we continue to announce to the world Jesus and His work and invite them to join us in the Church: Come, because everything is now ready.
Our text: We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. We patiently endure the world’s hatred of our Lord and His dear Christian. Again, it may not be the bloody persecution like in the early church or in our day today in far off places. But as we are increasingly marginalized and our voices silenced, we continue to love God, our fellow Christian and the unbelieving world. We live our lives of faith and good works. Nothing can stop that—even/ especially if we face hostility, even/ especially if our kindness and love are repaid with evil. We certainly cannot hate those that hate us/ hate Jesus because the one who does not love remains in death. There is no neutral position; if we do not love, then we hate. Our love cannot be concealed. Will it be easy? Hardly. We still have our old sinful flesh and blood that repays hatred with more hatred. But, dear Christian, we also have the new self/ the Christian in us. We have been brought to new life as we were born of God/ born from above in the waters of Holy baptism! Before we were dead in sin, but by the work of the Holy Spirit in the word and water we now have the power and willingness to strive to do what pleases God—to love, even those who do not love us. In other words, as Christians, we have no choice in the matter, we have to love. And this having to is not a force or compulsion forcing us to act contrary to our will. Instead, remember, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us, Jesus is in us and in fact, the whole holy Trinity has come to us and dwells in us. He, God, is love. How then can we vessels of the holy Triune God not love? And the love that we show is a result of the love of God that we have experienced. If we don’t love can we really say that we have experienced and received God’s love for us in Jesus? When we love, it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to us that He is in us—and where He is, there is forgiveness and faith, which receives that forgiveness of Jesus and strives to live a holy life of love toward God and neighbor. We know that we have crossed over from death to life, because we love our brothers. Dear Christian, we have new life; we have crossed over from death to life. The evidence of that is our life of love—toward our fellow Christians and toward the unbelieving world that hates us our Lord and His dear Christians.
But the fact remains: Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. This hatred of the world toward the Christian is also something God uses to purify and keep us in the faith. Even though we are Christians with the holy Triune God making His dwelling in us, we still have our old sinful nature. That means that if things are “easy” for us concerning the things of God and our faith, we far too easily become lazy, complacent; we won’t pray; sinful desires too easily come to the fore. But when things are difficult then we seek out God, call upon Him, become emboldened in faith. When we experience the hatred of the unbelieving world, we are warned against our own hatred and see its ugliness as we experience it first hand; then, not wanting that ugliness in us, we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, repent and strive to purify evil thoughts and hatred from our heart.
We then are stirred up to more Christlikeness. Our text: This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for our brothers. Whoever has worldly wealth and sees his brother in need but closes his heart against him—how can God’s love remain in him? Dear children, let us love not only with word or with our tongue, but also in action and truth. When it seems difficult/ impossible to love others, we have the example of Jesus who loved me, the sinner, and died for me so that I may have every heavenly gift and blessing now and forever. Surely I can love and show love to those around me—even to those who hate. INJ Amen